Guess what’s the biggest change that business owners have seen in the last few years.
Products? Technology? Repositioning? Financials?
You wouldn’t be entirely wrong if you chose any of the above.
But if you ask an entrepreneur (no matter what the size and nature of their business), the answer you’ll get loud and clear is “The Customer.”
Today’s customer is a very different beast – savvy, skeptical, alert, networked, knowledgeable, has access to a diverse range of research and information, and has a much higher level of expectations and aspirations than ever before.
They are also more ready than ever to switch loyalties if they don’t feel valued or they don’t get attractive deals. And yet, paradoxically, long-term relationships are appreciated much more too.
They are well-advised and eager to make the right decisions every time, expect customized, personalized solutions that are in sync with their location and profile, and they demand to be able to purchase anytime, anywhere.
It brings us to how marketing concepts and strategies have also undergone dramatic transformations so that they reflect new realities and keep in sync with what the consumer wants. Business development departments must find new ways to align the company’s profitability, growth, and success with the customer so that it’s a Win-Win situation both ways.
Inbound Marketing Frameworks
There are different marketing frameworks that have offered amazing breakthroughs and advantages across the years. Among them, the funnel and flywheel stand out today as two important ones.
What is the Funnel Framework?
The funnel concept is a tried-and-tested one. First invented in 1898, it has remained a key idea in marketing ever since. It is a model that demonstrates how a potential customer travels from initially becoming aware of your brand/product/services to finally becoming a purchaser.
The concept of a funnel best explains this transformation. Marketers cast their net and spread their message as widely as possible; customers respond slowly by forming a smaller group that travels into a narrower band as purchasing decisions become more firm.
Finally, a very small group travels into the exit point of the funnel, having become purchasers and customers.
Funnels are generally divided into top, middle, and bottom portions. The process goes through distinct stages, and the marketer can use these stages to map customer requirements, ensure that they are fulfilled so that marketing messages are suitably optimized, and ultimately lead to higher sales and a healthier bottom line.
The customer passes through these stages through the funnel:
- Expression of Interest
- Consideration and understanding of what’s on offer
- Demonstration of intent to purchase
- Final evaluation
- Purchase and transformation into being a customer
Loyalty and advocacy may follow, resulting in two additional stages.
What is the Flywheel Framework?
The original flywheel was invented by James Watt, and it is a real wheel that’s very energy efficient.
In marketing, it is used as a concept to explain how energy is stored, utilized, and wasted. The momentum created by satisfied/delighted customers helps to drive more sales and referrals.
This keeps the wheels of your business in motion. Unlike the funnel, the flywheel takes the customers as part of the marketing and sales input and not as the outcome or output.
The main focus is:
- Brand ambassadorship
This concept is gaining huge traction in marketing today because it takes up where the funnel left off. It incorporates the advantages of the funnel while eliminating some of the disadvantages. It places growth at the center and not attracting new leads.
What keeps the flywheel in motion is the good feedback, reviews, and social media noise from happy customers. It uses this energy to draw more customers in and make them a part of the buzz.
The flywheel transforms happy customers into your brand ambassadors, helps your business to attract more customers, and also engages with them in more authentic ways.
You also get to connect with them at various touchpoints on the customer journey and adjust your strategy accordingly. Flywheels are driven more by customer behavior, making this concept much more aligned to reality today.
Funnel or Flywheel? What’s Different
Linear Vs Cyclic
The funnel approach is a more linear that focuses on a distinct hierarchy of stages. It's aim is to attract new customers and then guide them through the channelized funnel process.
The flywheel is more cyclic in nature and focuses on repeat business generated by existing customers. It allows you to use more customer-centric methods of connecting with clients such as events, face-to-face, exclusive content, and personalized messaging.
The funnel can be a leaky process at several points. It fails to identify the potential that a customer has to become a brand ambassador. The customer journey ends at the bottom of the funnel without a clear plan for customer retention or repeat sales.
The funnel essentially views customers as the end to be gained, while the flywheel views them as people whose needs can fuel growth.
Studies show that more than 60% of a company’s business comes from existing customers, and customer acquisition costs 5% more. Increasing retention by just 2% can cut your marketing costs by 10%.
Unlike the funnel, which tends to neglect the customer once the purchase is complete, the flywheel focuses on providing the satisfaction that can transform the customer into a loyal brand ambassador.
The flywheel strategy helps to predict and anticipate their needs and provide them with relevant and timely messaging personalized to these requirements. This framework offers a better way of locating and identifying pain points and eliminating them so that the journey remains smooth and seamless.
The funnel is rapidly losing its relevance today as the marketing landscape evolves. In earlier decades, customers were unable to get independent and authentic reviews, feedback, suggestions, and recommendations at the click of a mouse.
In that era, the funnel made sense because it meant that information was available along the customer journey, from limited sources, and at the end of it, the business could simply let the customer go their way.
Today, the customer enters the journey at any stage according to their convenience and preference. They may skip several of the conventional funnel stages. The focus in funnels is purely on the acquisition, but in the flywheel, it’s a combination of acquisition and retention.
The funnel marketing strategy was more or less a one-size-fits-all type, whereas the flywheel creates localized energies with smaller marketing teams, multiple languages, cultural shifts, and conversion paths.
Funnels give marketers very little help in making predictions or anticipating buyers’ needs and preferences, especially in dynamic situations. You don’t get to really follow the customer journey in a personal or in-depth way.
The flywheel understands that customers tend to naturally trust their peers and word-of-mouth referrals rather than marketing messages from the company.
This is the power that the flywheel leverages, making the messaging much more targeted, efficient and cost-effective. Using cutting-edge information and data, you can deploy the flywheel effect much more widely and deeply.
The funnel model certainly works hard to gain customers, but the crucial difference is that it considers them to be almost an afterthought! While this seems paradoxical in the context of marketing, the reality is that the funnel merely serves as a channel to shepherd customers into the sales process.
On the other hand, when you deploy a flywheel-based marketing strategy, the focus remains on retaining the customer and building a long-lasting relationship with them. When this connection grows and matures, it pays dividends both ways on both sides of the market.
The customer is gradually transformed into an advocate and subject-matter expert on your company, products, and services.
More Accurate Metrics
Today, businesses have access to humongous volumes of data. The sky’s the limit on the amount, variety, and frequency of things that can be measured about your customer. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by this amount of information.
The flywheel model helps to bring the focus on the areas that truly matter – the customer-centric ones. It helps you to re-evaluate the marketplace and correctly identify, locate and serve your customers.
You’re better equipped to optimize your advertising, product listing pages, and content. This syncs with all your efforts to pull your customer to the center of the wheel where they can provide maximum energy.
Marketing gurus are slowly but surely waking up to the fact that the sales funnel is well on its way to becoming obsolete. The customer in 2021 has very little memory of what it was like a decade or two ago, when they didn’t have a device on hand to answer all their questions, give them options and be a constant helper.
It no longer makes sense to use a strategy that’s been around for a century. In the Internet Age, businesses can’t afford to ignore human qualities such as courtesy, kindness, listening skills, space to think, and form relationships that endure.
In the Funnel vs Flywheel debate, it certainly looks like the flywheel is getting way ahead, with more businesses coming on board and using the spin to win.
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